Review: Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Haunting Adeline is the first in the Cat and Mouse Duet, and the first book I have read from this author! I actually picked this book up at the beginning of Spooktober and wasn’t able to actually get to it until I went on vacation in December (here I am, exposing myself for writing reviews far in advance again).

I know, in the past, I’ve written some pretty strongly worded reviews about dubcon etc. I would like to clarify that there is a difference between unsuspecting and deliberately marketed content. By that, I mean, I was aware of what was I getting into with a book like this where there are very clear trigger warnings. I made an educated decision to read something I knew had the potential to make me uncomfortable. It’s another thing entirely to enter a situation blind. Trigger/content warnings are incredibly important for both the author and the reader. A subject I’ve written about in this blog. That all being said, I’d like to take a moment to point out the triggers of this book: 

Trigger Warning: This book ends on a cliffhanger. It is a dark romance that contains graphic violence, dub/non con, and deals with subject matters such as child trafficking and human sacrifice. If you have ANY triggers at all, this may not be the story for you

Let me tell you a little bit about the story!

Adeline recently moved to her grandmother’s home after her passing, and can’t help but liken her own story to her late great-grandmother’s. Gigi was murdered — by who? No one has any answers. The mystery draws her in, wrapping her up in uncomfortable layers of familiarity when she finds herself on the receiving end of a stalker’s attention. Z, a gifted hacker, and vigilante. You see, Gigi too had a stalker. And they had fallen in love. A fate Adeline fights tooth and nail, even when circumstances beyond their control pull them closer together. 

What I really love about this story is that it is a mystery, wrapped up in a (dark) romance, wrapped up in another mystery. You can’t help but be drawn in by the questions surrounding Addie’s grandmother’s murder, and love life.

The romance between Addie and Z would be perfect for anyone who enjoys dark romance/dubcon/non-con. 

I have some mixed feelings about Z (which was very clearly the intention of the writer). Not only is he a criminal, but he tortures and murders people for a living. Not just any ol’ people, mind you. But other criminals — largely, those responsible for crimes against women and children. It’s one of those “bad guy for the right reasons” kind of situations. I do like that Carlton avoided the trope of giving him a tragic backstory that led him down this particular path. I do like how Z was portrayed as someone irredeemable, and unrepentant. It’s hard to explain my exact feelings, but I didn’t find him particularly believable. I felt that Z was something of a caricature, which, strangely, worked in this context. Despite the nature of the book, I think if he had felt more real I wouldn’t have finished the book. There was something about the cognitive dissonance that this character created that made it all manageable.  

I feel like, in dubcon/non-con there’s always going to be some mental gymnastics the characters partake in to make it palatable. I’ll be frank and say that this is a genre I’m not overly familiar with (nor do I intend to get overly familiar with it), but it was a bit hard for me to take the journey with Addie. I didn’t get the strong sense that she was falling for him. It felt more like it happened with a snap of the fingers and it took away from the overall romance (such as it is). 

I will say that I appreciated Carlton’s ability to tell a story. I think she did a fantastic job with this book, and I do think I’ll pick up the second, Hunting Adeline sometime in the future (I need a bit of a break from dub/non-con). I would love to give this book a five-star review, but some of the writing fell a bit too flat for me. With the book being in the first-person perspective, we’re intended to get a strong character voice (this book is written in a dual-perspective, by the way). I found Addie’s voice was a bit… Forced? In that it felt overly quirky. A strained attempt at being funny and relatable. I will admit that it only happened a handful of times through the text, but it was enough to pull me out of her head and drop me back into my own. 

It’s also alluded to that there is a ghost in Parson’s Manor. It wasn’t a point that was really solidly concluded in the first book, so I’m hoping that it becomes more of a focal point in the second part of the duet.

I know I’ve mentioned before in other blogs that I rate books on an objective scale. Oftentimes, the books I read will have two completely different ratings. One for the general audience (based exclusively on objective reviewing criteria), and another based on my own personal feelings/takeaways from the book. I normally don’t share my personal ratings, but in this case, I feel it’s pertinent to say: I am not a fan of dub/non-con and even with that, I would rate this book 4 stars. I’m not the intended audience, and I still enjoyed it. So, for those of you who do enjoy this kind of content, I do firmly believe that this will be a book you’ll be happy to add to your collection.

You can find H.D. Carlton: on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, and her website.

Have you read anything from H.D. Carlton before? What else would you recommend? And if you’re read either of this duet, I’d love to know what you thought about it! Sound off in the comments down below!

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